Cheap meats: how to save money on beef, lamb and pork by choosing the right cut

A person holding a wooden board covered in smoked beef brisket and various pickles

Nicola Dowse

Posted July 29, 2022

There are several types of cheap meats to try if you want to slash your grocery bills and still enjoy a great meal. 

Sweetbreads. Prairie oysters. Headcheese. Lamb’s fry. Variety meat. There’s no shortage of euphemisms used to describe offal – that is, the edible organs of an animal. 

While some might find these meats unpalatable, for others, there’s nothing more delicious than an expertly cooked brain, liver, intestine, heart or kidney. Just ask Jelena Grujovic, Chef de Cuisine for the Members Dining Room at RACV City Club.

“I try to have at least one of the offal options on each menu, or at least to be part of the dish,” Jelena says. 

As part of the winter 2022 menu in the Members Dining Room, Jelena has created a Lamb Brains Grenobloise, which she says is “very popular” with diners. 

For the dish the lamb brains are pan-fried with a grenobloise sauce comprising beurre noisette, lemon, capers and herbs. Combined with an earthy celeriac crème and topped with thin-sliced sourdough for crunch, Jelena says the “lamb brains just melts in your mouth.”

Not only is offal tasty, it’s also packed with nutrients (including protein, iron, folate and vitamins A and B12) and one of the most economic cuts of meat to buy. 

Not a fan of offal? There are plenty of other cuts of meat that you can swap into your weekly shopping list to save money. 


A plate of tripe, chorizo sausage and chickpeas, garnished with parsley

Offal might not be for everyone, but it is a more affordable cut of meat in many instances and is packed with nutrients. Photo: Getty

What influences the price of meat? 

Data from Canstar Blue shows that Victorians spent an average of $38 every week on meat in 2021, which adds up to nearly $2,000 a year. 

According to Nick Boyle, sales and relationships manager from Flinders + Co (a premium food production and distribution company that supplies RACV City Club), the price of meat is influenced by a number of factors 

“There's been some pretty significant rises in price on particularly red meat over the last six to 12 months,” he says. “It comes down to, in general, the cost of doing business. It’s labour, it’s freight, it’s fuel, it’s feeding the animals.” 

The price of meat also depends on the demand for it – if more consumers want that particular cut, it’s often more expensive.  

“A tenderloin is a good example. Everyone is used to eating tenderloin…there’s obviously a lot of demand for it because of that,” says Boyle.  

“But ultimately it’s a very small muscle. A tenderloin weighs around about two kilos and you take a tenderloin out of an animal that weighed 350 kilos. It’s a prized cut, it’s obviously going to push the price of that piece of meat up.” 

The good news is you can reduce your grocery bill and still enjoy a meaty meal by swapping the cut of meat on your shopping list.


A pan filled with uncooked lamb shanks in it, surrounded by chopped veggies, herbs and spices

Beef and lamb shanks are an economic option and taste great when slow-cooked in a stew, soup or casserole.

Affordable and budget-friendly cuts of meat (that still taste great) 

Beef shanks 

If you’ve got a slow cooker, beef shanks can be made into a hearty, inexpensive meal with minimal fuss. Jelena recommends adding the shanks to the slow cooker with parsnips, carrots and celeriac and cook on high. “Serve with some horseradish cream and that’s it,” she says. “Quick, delicious lunch and no mess!” 

Chuck steak 

Chuck is a great example of how a little patience can produce tasty rewards. Chuck steak is streaked with fat and an economic favourite in casseroles, curries and stews – any dish where it’s cooked low and slow in liquid.  


“Offal is definitely affordable and available,” says Jelena. She recommends sweetbreads (the thymus and pancreas glands) in particular, having previously served slow-cooked sweetbreads with baked witlof and burnt breadcrumb sauce in the Members Dining Room to great acclaim.   

Corned beef and corned silverside 

Corned beef and corned silverside are very similar, the only difference being what part of the animal they come from, resulting in silverside being less fatty. They’re also both very cheap, as their salt-curing extends their shelf life. Be sure to rinse your beef before cooking and simmer the meat, don’t boil it.  

Beef brisket 

Slow, smoky brisket has surged in popularity in recent years. It’s also a relatively affordable cut of beef per kilogram – but there’s a catch. “They're a pretty large piece of meat and you wouldn't normally be able to go to a butcher and sort of buy a portion of brisket, generally you would need to buy the whole thing,” says Boyle. But if you’ve a large family or are catering for a lot of people, it’s a cut to consider.  

Chicken drumsticks  

Modern chicken farming means that most cuts of chicken are “pretty cost-effective” according to Boyle. Generally speaking, however, drumsticks tend to be one of the cheapest cut available. They’re also a favourite with kids for their easy-to-hold shape, and can be baked, roasted or even used in a chicken casserole or soup. 

Pork neck  

Like chicken, most cuts of pork are quite budget friendly according to Boyle. One of his favourite economic cuts, however, is pork neck or collar butt, which can be bought as steaks but it best when braised. 

Lamb shanks, legs and shoulders 

Roast lamb is a classic Australian dish, but depending on the cut it can cost quite the pretty penny. Boyle recommends opting for a lamb leg or shoulder for a roast, or cooking lamb shanks slowly in a stew or braise. 

Herring, sardines and kippers 

Fish and seafood can be expensive, but there are budget-friendly (and sustainable) options available. “Small fish like herring, sardines and kippers are high in Omega-3 and because they replenish quicker, are more sustainable to eat,” says Jelena. “Kippers on toast for breakfast is a great way to start the day.”